Columbia University

One year ago I was admitted to Columbia University

 but money is so real

that I feel it slipping from my hip bones.

Feel my hands reaching for bottles I don’t remember buying.

I’m trying

to keep my spirits up but

my lungs are so tired

that I’m having trouble sleeping.

Poems well up beneath my skin

then dry and shed in places unintended,

job applications and non-profit cover letters.

I am so sick of playing nice

that I feel insults sliding across my teeth.

Riding my back home in the rain

because these days

safety is a currency.

Because math tests and technicalities

keep me from decent salaries.

 Because my pay checks are life lines.

And I fetch after them like a dog

Because poverty is the closet we’ll ever get to our own heartbeats.

And I know my heart so well that she has her own twitter account.

 140 characters of magnificent poetry.

I keep thinking my art is something I’ll grown into.

Keep thinking it won’t be so loose in the shoulders

like my mouth will become big enough to say all the words I have always been scared to.

I’m so embarrassed by the paper.

So embarrassed by the keyboard.

 She beckons me forth.

And little ole me shuffling out of the light

with a cup of whiskey because I can’t approach her any other way.

So intimidated

by these blanks pages.

These acceptance letters.

This visa bill.

 This empty bank account. 

I am so terrified of not becoming who I am

 that all I can think of to do is move.

 All I can think of to do is write.

 All I can think of to do is submit.



Like it’s my last pay check.

Like it’s my last hope.

 I place myself into every corner.

There is no room anywhere else.

I am crowded by my own voice.

Crowded by my own potential.

Every day I wake up with such urgency

and I don’t know when the switch happened.

I don’t know when winter started.

But when it’s raining outside I just think of the sun.

I just think of its touch against my back.

I think when you are at the bottom it is easy to pack up.

 It is easy to drive South

to adopt a dog

and call yourself free.

I think I have to stop drinking now.

I think this bottle has wound its way to dust bow and it will make a very nice display on my mantel.

I think I have not stopped writing since the day I was born.

I have not stopped writing since the day my mind matched sounds to sentences.

These sentences that shimmer like gold.

They are the only currency I have left.

 They are the only language I know how to speak.

 They touch against my back

like anyone out there.

Like if anyone is out there,

I can’t afford Columbia

But I'm.




Twenty something year old boy

We feel embarrassed. 

Hold their missed calls like shrapnel along our spine.

We scold our misjudgment.

Feel silly for loving, 

wish their apathy away with laughter.

We should've laughed harder.

Been brighter. 

Uprooted their childhood.

Buried it farther

Yes master. 

We are embarrassed to reach for things.

Our hands so small,

disappearing up our sleeves.

He's just tired

He's just working.

He's just scared

We fashion excuses like the barrel of an old war rifle. 

Ready to aim and fire at anyone who calls our bluff.

Please don't call my bluff.

I am already teetering on self-confidence

Already teetering on this new found feminism.

When I am warm to the touch.

What will they say of me then?

When I am bent boned?

When am I teeth mashed?

When I am queen fallen?

How will I face my daughters?

When I've allowed such violation?

When I've allowed their boots on my fine Persian rug.

Their stomping?

My stomping.

Their words?

All mine.

Because I allowed it.

Because I allowed it.

Skin softer than lamb.

Womb bigger than an orchard.

Still want them inside me.

Still want touch so badly

I'm willing to forgive them for the way that they touch me.

Because they touch me like plastic.

Like fools gold.

Like a twenty something year old boy

who doesn't know an antique from a gun hole. 

Who will speak of me in decades to come?

Of the women, 

Loved and lost.

Of stars fallen.

Apologies Expired.

We are the wounds.

That will turn to scars.

And even those,

We’ve managed to make fashionable.


Adam and April

Our home is not a home when the sun goes down.

The way darkness gives birth to angry hands.

The way those knuckles howl against our cheeks.

The way statistics

can be twisted

into her.

Or her.

Or her.

Or me.

The secrets

hidden within

every crevasse of our home.

We are told to be quiet.

But we keep breaking down

in those parts of our house

Where the secrets are kept.

We have wondered what it feels like to feel safe

All the while knowing that we will never really know

Instead we have learned to study shadows.

To read facial expressions

like a precious


of what to say next.

How to duck down in silence

How to out smart death.

We know how to do this.

We have been out living men for centuries

Because for centuries our hips have told stories

amongst themselves.

Myths of origin.

Advice on how to be brave against fury.

Ways to swallow ourselves whole.

For centuries we have smiled at one another in our native language.

Giving each other hope.

I bet you didn’t know that

We believe in our own God.

Our own stories of Adam and Eve.

That We tell

And we tell

so that we will not forget ourselves

 It is true that Adam came first


before there was Eve

 there was April.

And she was not afraid of snakes.

And she asked for what she wanted.

It is true that Adam came first

But it is also true that God and Adam stared aimlessly at each other

Because Adam ran out of interesting things to say.

And when April came

Made of God’s flesh

God’s blood

She and God would talk for hours on end

as she inhaled.

And sighed.

And Inhaled

And sighed.

We of the April tribe

Know how to talk to God.

 So when they come into our homes.

All words

All knives

All hateful eyes peaking

Out of their masked intimidation

into our bathrooms

or the space behind the passenger’s side of our car.

When they watch us

they seem to have forgotten where we come from.

Because we did not come this far

without knowing how to shift shapes.

How to outrun the wind.

How to dive deeper than the sour cackling hands that bind us.

How to untie our own knots.

Our scars speak mountains that our mouths do not.

I bet you didn’t know

that for centuries our hips have told stories amongst themselves

the legend of what God said to April in the garden that night

He told her,

“Laugh a little bit louder

Hold onto yourself until hurts.

Write your grandmother’s name on the back of your knuckles

So that every time you have to sock oppression in the face

It will not forget where you come from.

And April it will come

Violence spilling out of closets

Violence underneath the stairs

Violence disguised as

Fraternity parties

Or a happy marriage

Or private tutoring lessons.

Remember my valuable strong April that when the world

will hit you instead of kiss you

Remember what I have told you.

I will put my lips just beneath the surface of the earth.

Know that when you are being beaten

or laughed at

or abused

 I am kissing your footsteps.

Every time you move.”



S L E E P I N G   W I T H   R I B S

     Tonight I fall asleep next to the new boy. We are so brand new that we swallow our snores, apologies spilling from our throats.  It has only been three weeks. We are so polite we can’t even dream.

     I insist on laying on my side. He on his back, because he bruised his ribs earlier this week, bruised them so bad he can’t even ride a bike. I tell him I’m sorry it hurts. He says, thank you and I’m fine, I’m fine, pushing my sorrys back towards me until they drift out of his bedroom, slow and unwelcome.

     He is not fine.  I know that because I can spy the grimace underlining his smile each time he exhales or shifts. We are still pretty new at this, so he is embarrassed to hurt in front of me and I am embarrassed too because I don’t know how to hold it yet.

     Last Saturday at the party the woman on the fire escape asked us if we were a couple and we paused before her question, each of us pulling drags from our single cigarette before Alex finally answered, “Um… I don’t think so.”

 “Yeah… we’re friends.” I added.

     And that is the best combination of answers we could’ve come up with, like if we were pulling answers out of a hat we would’ve been magicians.

     In his bedroom we are boy and girl.  I am not sure how to care for him but I know that I am doing it slowly. He is slow too.  He doesn’t call me every day or invite me to dinner and I think he is in love with the woman before me because he cannot stop talking about her without the subtle shade of twilight behind his eyes so I am sort of off the hook in that way and that’s nice because I know that twilight too. I know that twilight so well that sometimes I can’t even walk along the water.

     We pass the time flipping through old photo albums and laughing at the pictures of his skinny legs, the crooked point of a rifle, handwriting from the second grade. We exchange stories like old friends. It is the easiest thing in the world.

     At night I don’t have much to give because it has all been spent on the man before him.  I won’t have much to give in the morning either but I’m hoping that at some point I will. The radio promised me seven more years of heartbreak and I am just dying to let the breaking begin. I am just dying to fall in love more than once so I can come out the other end, fearless and broken, so I can look just like my momma, so I can call myself a grown up, so I can look God in the eye.

     When it is time to go to bed he shifts his body careful and cautious. I move careful too, not because I have a rib injury but because I am trying to respect the gentleness, so I climb into bed as if my fragile is at the exact same level as his, as if we’ve been on the same page all along.

     Once we are settled I slip into his chest and he pulls me by the hipbone and it feels like we have done this a thousand times like it is instinct. It does not take much for the fumbling to begin. I am on top and he is beneath me. I am sure if the doctor knew what we were up to he would wag his finger and say, “That is poor recovery.” It is an hour, maybe two before we finally give it up and go to sleep. Our bodies have already told a thousand stories, they know each other better than we even know ourselves so we follow in their footsteps and wrap ourselves in each other’s warmth.

     Hours later he wakes me in the middle of the night. A dark cloud funneling our mattress, he is wincing in between breaths, all shifty and clenched fist. I know he mentioned earlier, something about a muscle spasm. How his ribs will contract, wiggling beneath his skin. The sort of pain buried far beneath the surface,

     I am half asleep but I hear him as if he is all tiny and whimper, like the little boy from the photo album all over again. “Your ribs?” I murmur, “Is it your ribs?”

     “Yeah” is all he can get out, “yeah, sorry.”

      I can hear his grimace. I can hear it in his whisper, his exhale, and all at once it feels like I am spasming too, my mouth curling herself into an open twisted shape.  

     And I don’t know why it hurts me to see him hurting but I can barely stand it. And everything feels so familiar. Everything feels like a home video, like I have laid in bed next to him wincing in the middle of the night a thousand times except I know I haven’t done this with him but I’ve done it with someone. I’m wracking my brain and I can’t remember, I can’t remember, then all the sudden, I do


     It was Cassidy.


     This was my sister Cassidy. Of course.

     Then I feel my mouth curl again, sharper this time.

     This was the mattress in the blue room upstairs. This was the whimper that I woke up to. This was her spine and the way that she arched it. This was the husband I could not bring back.

      I remember hearing her voice rise up out of the darkness, a cry that strung itself into pitiful sounds, “Jimmy” she was begging, “Jimmy wake me up, wake me up, wake me up.”



     Oh, I remember now. Alex’ whimpering knocks against my ear like a bell I cannot un-ring. When I hear him groan I feel like I am watching an explosion happen in slow motion. I pretend I am enclosed in a small case. I can see him through the plexiglass, I can see his curling mouth, his muted cries. I remember if vaguely, what it feels like to be human.

     All of the sorrys I offered before are gone now. For a moment I lie so still, I could blend into the furniture.

     I remember what the scientist said, how everything is made up of atoms, how atoms repeal each other so if you think about it we’re never really touching in the first place.


     Something inside me falls. I look up at the ceiling because it’s unsafe to look anywhere else. I'm walking a tight rope. If I’m not careful I will spill this way or that and he and I are still pretty new at this so I am embarrassed to spill in front of him and he will be embarrassed too because he won’t know how to watch it yet.

     This is the part where I reach my hand out in darkness. This is the part where I cradle his abdomen, run my fingertips along his spine, or scoot close enough for him to feel my heartbeat except my body won’t do it. I watch him groan. I know exactly what he needs, I know exactly how to give it. But I don’t.

     In the morning I will feel guilty about this. In the morning I will wonder if I am a monster, a ghost, but not now. Not while I am so busy walking this tight rope.











The Most Beautiful Thing


A friend once asked me, “What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?” And I could never really give him a straight answer. To most people this is a fairly easy question. Most people say, “The birth of my child,” Or they say, ‘”The mountains at sunset.” But not me. I could never find enough alphabet to describe how it feels to look God directly in the eye.

And so I forgot about the question entirely and years and years went by and then one day, out of the blue, I saw it. And that is how it happens. You don’t really ask for God, she just shows up. Except for it wasn’t out of the blue at all. It was more out of the gray, the gray dark skies of a morning in March. That was the month when my brother in law died. The month when everyone stopped what they were doing and came home and when all of the days swallowed themselves in one aching hollow cry.

On this particular day my sister Cassidy was sitting in the red velvet armchair in the downstairs family room watching the E Channel. She wasn’t crying.

There were flowers everywhere. Flowers in the window, flowers on the table, flowers in the closet, flowers coming out of our sleeves, our eyes, our throats. The TV was blaring on and on something about the Kardashians and Cassidy was wearing her gray sweats and it reminded me of that time when she and Jimmy lived in the basement apartment in that building on Capitol Hill.

She used to walk around in those gray sweats and Jimmy was kissing her and kissing her all the time and saying things like “Guerra” (white girl) and laughing at all of her jokes. I came over to that apartment once when I was crying. I don’t quite remember what it was I was crying about except that I remember Jimmy held me for a long time and Cassidy stood back and watched, her smile, underlining the living room in a gentle easy glow.

Now I could barely look at her in those gray sweats. I don’t know what it was but every time I saw her wearing them I couldn’t help but feel like she was fragile all over again, a little girl in a woman’s body.

She was staring at the TV, vacant. No one tells you that grief is an awful lot like an acid trip or psychosis or sleep walking. You are disconnected but awake all the same. The worst part is that the world keeps spinning. The sun keeps rising and setting and people keep getting in their cars and driving to work and sitting in cubicles and then driving home. And you want to go out in the middle of the street and scream, “Everyone stop! Can’t you see my brother in law died?!” But you don’t. You go about your business, finishing your classes or planning a funeral, all the while knowing that you’ve seen something you weren’t supposed to see, that you know something you weren’t supposed to know, and now you are left dumbfounded in the wake of your own ignorance like a child who has walked in on her parents having sex.

And this was just how it felt when I picked Cassidy up from the airport. When Jimmy died she flew home from New York almost right away. I waited outside the security checkpoint and watched all the passengers exit their planes, greeting their family members, all hugs and balloons, the way families do.

I sorted through the faces of strangers, waiting and waiting and waiting for my sister’s to come around the corner. And for a moment I forgot that it wasn’t the holidays and I wasn’t waiting for an aunt or a cousin. It was March and I was waiting for Cassidy. Waiting for Cassidy because Jimmy had died. And then all at once there she was, my mom and dad on either side of her, Jimmy’s parents and sister, closely behind.

She stepped through the exit and I pulled her into my arms and held her there like a precious unspoken tragedy, all five of my brothers and sisters surrounding us. The entire airport stopped to watch.

This was the first time I’d seen my sister since hearing the news. I thought that by seeing her somehow my feet would land back on the ground, the gray filter would be lifted and I could see the world as it was, but it didn’t. My feet remained dumb, tangled. The black and white film kept rolling, as if the whole month of March was meant to take place in a silent theatre and perhaps the month of April too, and June and July and August and I didn’t know when it would stop. I felt like there was music playing all the time, like I couldn’t shut off the goddamn elevator music, it was itching my ears and clouding my mind with this numbing white noise.

When I saw Cassidy for the first time, I thought for sure I would cry. I thought for sure I would howl but I didn’t. There was no voice igniting from my throat, no whimper, no want. I could not gather enough moisture from the dark pools inside myself to form all the tears I ought to cry. It was the pools I worried about, the ones that hold all of our deepest longings. I grew worried that perhaps I had no longing at all. Or maybe life had drug me along far enough that my longings had splashed out and everywhere. All at once, I was left to draw from a well that had been emptied. Even as I saw her, even as she hobbled through the sliding doors effortless and defeated, tears tumbling from her eyes, I could not feel a thing. My face dry as a bone. 

 Everyone tells me it will come. Everyone tells me I am in shock, that when the dead bolt slides the floods will come in and wash over me, a holy cleansing that will leave me more beautiful than I have ever been. But the dead bolt is still closed, has been closed. For a year now. Locked. Even I do not have the keys. 

Months later my mom would tell me that Cassidy drew a lot of strength from my strength, that when she was feeling the most vulnerable she gathered nourishment from my smarting turquoise fingernails, my unapologetic eyes, a roaring in my voice that I cannot silence.

I did not tell them about the well. I did not tell them about this hinged dead lock. There is nothing brave about not feeling.

Sometimes I would watch my sister Amanda and envy her kindness. The way she gave her empathy so effortlessly. You ought to watch Amanda watch Cassidy. It is one of the most moving things you’ll ever see. You would think that Amanda was staring at the Sistine chapel, you would think that Amanda was sifting through the ruins of a decimated city. The way her eyes move, like a beautiful work of art, over Cassidy’s body. Jesus, you should see her face.

The way her tears spill, willful and generous. I could watch Amanda watch Cassidy all day. It teaches me, if only, what love looks like, even when I can’t always know what love feels like.

I have never cried for Cassidy like that, but I can tell you that the other day on Capitol hill I watched a fourteen year old boy waddle to the bus stop and when the bus drove away the boy reached his hand out and shouted, “Wait!” and his voice squeaked into a hundred pitiful shards and just like that, I started crying. Not because he missed the bus but because I watched the bus drive away from him and perhaps that is a snap shot of his whole life.

He doesn’t look right. He doesn’t sound right. He’s not cool enough. I thought about that boy for weeks.

He reappeared in my mind’s eye over and over again in the most peculiar places, the line at the grocery store, the drive on the way to work. I prayed for him, more than I have ever prayed for Cassidy. I prayed that he had parents who loved him. I prayed that he had a group of friends that he enjoyed. I prayed that he would have sex with someone at least once in his life. I suppose, it’s not that the well is empty, it’s just that my well chooses to spill at the most peculiar times and for the most peculiar reasons.

After picking Cassidy up, I remember taking the escalator down to baggage claim and holding her hand and not knowing what to say. “I like your shoes…” I offered. She could barely smile, “Thanks.” And I felt like such an ass hole. Manners. Manners at a time a like this.

The luggage went around the belt and my dad, Jimmy’s dad, and my little brother gathered the incoming suitcases one by one. There were so many of them, filled with clothes, and pictures and silverware. And Cassidy sat beside me, pulling her large black sunglasses over her face and whispering, “Can you fucking believe this?”

It was only ten months earlier that we had dropped the young couple off at that same airport. “Good luck in Grad school!” We told them. “You guys are doing big things.” And that was the truth. They were. Cassidy smiled at us. Jimmy beside her and fumbling through an itinerary as she pointed at him and rolled her eyes. “This is my life now guys.” She told us. Jimmy looked up, a grin plastered to his face as he reached for the suitcases. “Come on Guerra.” He said. “We love you guys.”

Now in the red velvet arm chair Cassidy was subdued. It was hard to tell what kind of morning she would have. Some mornings she would wake up howling and moaning, others she would be quiet or content. Once she came downstairs dressed to the nines, her blonde hair blooming into a mountain above her head. “The book says,” She explained, “To take care of yourself. Wake up each day and choose an outfit, do your hair, feel good about yourself.” But out of all the mornings there was always one thing that we could count on, every sunrise whether content or sad, or noisy or silent, or dressed or naked, Cassidy would come down the stairs and say, “I hate being awake.”

On this particular morning she was quiet. All of her grief had settled nicely into the bones of her shoulders, the ends of her hair, the corners of her eyes. It was one of those days when she was only existing and even that was almost too much.

We had gone out the night before. Cassidy asked to borrow one of my shirts, the blue one with the open back. “Yeah sure,” I told her. And we went to a bar on Main Street called, “Hannah’s” with that cover band and lots of dancing. I remember watching her on the dance floor and thinking it was funny because only one year ago we had danced at this same bar, in front of this same band, and she had borrowed that same blue shirt and won a vibrator because the lead singer heard it was her bachelorette party. 

And that’s funny how some things stay. How shirts stay, and bars stay, and bands stay, when everything else has changed.

We didn’t quite make it to the end of the night. Cassidy asked us to step outside for some fresh air and when we did she lead us across the street and began to cry. We all crowded around her, my mom, my sisters, my cousin. “I can’t do it.” She said. My mom lit up a cigarette, “That’s okay honey. You tried. You tried and you did good.”

We drove home listening to Elton John. “What do you guys wanna do next?” I asked. Cassidy was slouched in the passenger’s seat, her cheek pressed up against the safety belt. “Kill ourselves,” She muttered. “Besides that!” I shouted. And the entire car burst into laughter. And we drove home singing Benny and the Jets and Crocodile Rock but we didn’t sing Candle in the Wind.

The next morning we came downstairs one by one, with me being the last, because I almost always sleep late. When I got there Cassidy was watching the E Channel. She liked the E channel because she said it required no thinking what so ever. There was no real story to get attached to, no characters to invest in, no plot, no nothing, only fashion and boys and gossip, the only thing on television that didn’t hurt to watch.

As the E channel droned on my sisters and I settled amongst ourselves, quiet and resigned. My father was outside working on the lawn. We caught the reflection of him moving across the yard as he pulled branches, shoveled dirt, and trimmed bushes. This was our father on any given Sunday. We had memories of him calling us out back and announcing that we were to move this pile of wood chips from the patio to the fence. We’d all bust out in a harmony of wailing, “Daaaddd. We just got home from school!” or “My favorite show is onnn!” or “I have to do my homework!” And every time he always said the same thing, “Come on guys! There’s six of us. If we all pitch in it will only take ten minutes!”

We had other memories of our dad in that yard too. We used to play dodge ball and we’d run, screaming like a fistful of giggles, from one fence to the other. Once I didn’t make it in time and I panicked in a frenzy, tripping over one of my bedazzled pant legs and gripping the nearest pine tree. “This is base too!” I shouted, “It is dad! It is! It is!” I still remember the way that he laughed, the way he shook his head and said, “No…. no, Brenda.” Even now, it is the same laugh. It is the same voice that cradles my name so easily. 

But there was something about that yard. Something about him being in it and on it and moving through it that always made us feel like the world was all as it should be.

On this particular day my dad came into the house for no reason at all. He was wearing those clothes that don’t belong in the house. Those tattered blue jeans and that old, “Celebrate Life” camp T-shirt and dirt and dirt everywhere all over his hands, his forehead, his feet. And I remember he crossed the family room and he crouched down on his knees in front of the armchair. When something holy is about to happen everyone stops to watch. All of us turned from the TV to see what my dad would do next. And he leaned forward and he put his forehead against Cassidy’s forehead and all at once he started crying. And that was it. He just cried and cried, his tears broken and humble and silent. We watched his bowed head, the feeble cracking of his armor. Cassidy began to cry too. And there it was. Just the two of them, forehead to forehead, weeping.

The funny thing is that The Kardashians was playing the whole time, going on and on in the background about shoes and clothes and clubs, but it didn’t matter. God was right there, in the corner of our family room. And we couldn’t bear to take our eyes off him.

I remember Cassidy had her eyes closed. And she was drawing those tears from the deepest pools inside herself. The kind of pools we all harbor but don’t dare draw from. They were spilling down her cheeks, her neck, her collarbone. And then she did something, something that I have never seen a human do in my life. She reached her hands up and put them against my dad’s face but she didn’t hold them there. She didn’t settle on his cheeks bones. She didn’t cup one of his shoulders, or rest her palms against his neck, instead she moved her hands about his face. Tracing his skin with the edge of her fingertips, like an old map. She moved along his cheek bones, his mouth, his eyes, navigating through the tears, she explored his entire face, the both of them silent, both of them, eyes closed.

What I love most is that he let her. He didn’t flinch or pull away or ask her to stop. She felt dad using just her hands and he crouched there crying.

I couldn’t stop looking. I couldn’t understand what I was seeing except that I knew it was more than a wedding day, more than a birth, more than lovers, or father and daughter, or even sex for the first time. It was something else.

They say when you see God you recognize him immediately. Some people see him in church, others in grocery stores, some in bars. My mom saw God for the very first time in the woods behind her parents’ house. As for me, I saw him in the red velvet armchair, in the corner of our family room, on a gray morning in March.

In truth I have been crying all along. In truth I have been missing Jimmy ever since he stepped out of his body over one year ago. It’s just that I have cried for him in misplaced, disfigured ways.

There are some days when I am so broken that I can’t even take a step without feeling the earth give way beneath me, days when I am so lonely that I long for my lover’s mouth like a child rooting for her mother’s soft heavy breast. When my body is so ripe for touch, that the thought of a stranger’s hands overwhelms me.

When you have seen that which you were not meant to see, it takes months or even years to reassemble the pieces. To find those people who can gather you when you cannot always gather yourself

I remember one night Cassidy was sobbing inconsolable in the blue room upstairs.

There were three of us on that mattress, my sister Chelsea, me and Cassidy. Chelsea and I doing our best to hold what Cassidy couldn’t as she flailed like a toddler. “Jimmy wake me up!” She kept screaming, “Wake me up, wake me up, wake me up.” The relentless begging of her spine as she arched and curled and screamed. Chelsea clung onto my torso in shaking sobs behind me. I held still for her and stared ahead at Cassidy in strong, sturdy patience. When she was done reeling I reached my hand out in the darkness and placed my fingertips against the small of her back, moving them up and down again in gentle cascading movements. Cassidy’s body settled into whimpers and after a while she finally said, “That feels good.” I said nothing at all. Unwilling to stain the silence with my less than holy words, I moved my hand up and down, scratched her back for hours until she fell asleep.

Sometimes that is all you need, those simple lingering moments, when the emotion has drained and you are left stagnant and defeated. This is the eye of the storm, on some days this is what I most hope for. Those tiny calming moments mean more than a job, more than a high GPA, or a good boyfriend, or a brilliant poem. Some days, being okay is my most prized possession. It is a blessing, even if just for a few moments at a time.

The Buddhist says that the answer is in you and most people will spend the rest of their lives never knowing what that means. I know what it means. My sister Cassidy knows what it means. Those of us who have had the misfortune and the honor and the privilege to dive into the wreck know what it means.

What they don’t tell you about grief is that after words, everything is beautiful. Every single heart beat, every sunrise, every fat cell, every birth, every joke. You can barely look at anything without crying. What they don’t tell you about grief, is that just like that, all at once, your life and everyone in it, is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. 

On Older Men (well... at least one of them)

People want to know if he’s my father. They want to know if he’s my uncle, my strange friend. When Adam and I go out in public, I don’t have enough body to hold all the eyeballs that are tackling me. I feel nervous to touch him or kiss him or smile at him because there are people everywhere and what might they think? And I know Adam is thinking the exact same thing because like clockwork he says to me, “People are trying to figure us out.” 

 In the beginning I asked Adam if he had told anyone about me yet. He shook his head, “Just one friend. A woman my age.” I was curious, “And? What did she say when you told her I was twenty one?” Adam sighed, “She shook her head and said, ‘Oh Adam’.”

I wasn’t altogether surprised by this reaction but still I wanted to know who this woman was. 

 I wanted to know what style of clothes she wore, how she fixed her hair, her tone of voice. I wondered what it would be like to have a conversation with this woman. I imagined it would probably go very poorly, considering she would try to talk to me about thirty nine year old things, like the housing market in California and I would have no idea why that even mattered and I would try to talk to her about the Gatumba Genocide because perhaps if I described the tribal rivalry she would respect me more as an adult, except for then I would be talking about genocide just to score “grown up” points and this seemed an awful lot like bull shit to me. So I would probably say nothing at all and then she would think that I was scared and so very very young.

All the while I would be sitting there thinking about the thirty nine year old Australian man I met in the bar on Main street and that great conversation we had about Australian history and then wondering why it is so much easier for me to get along with thirty nine year old men than it is to get along with thirty nine year old women or twenty one year old women for that matter and then my mind would launch into all kinds of questions about power struggles between women and what they look like and what they mean and how it is all so sad. And meanwhile this woman would probably still be looking me up and down, talking about the housing market in California and I would be nodding my head absentmindedly thinking about gender inequalities while she sat there thinking, “This scared young girl.”

I thought about that for a minute until I remembered that I was sitting across from Adam. “Ah, so she judged you?” I asked. He nodded his head. A simple yes that dangled harmlessly in the air between us. I shrugged at him. He shrugged back. And that was that.

We get along well, Adam and I.

But people have so many questions and I have no answers. They want to know if this is a daddy thing and that’s fair except for that I have a perfectly kind father who tells me things like, “I love you” and “I am so proud of who you are” and all those other words that young women claw for once they reach that age when their bodies turn into kaleidoscopes and men trail along behind them like lost puppies. 

To me it does not matter whether Adam loves me or likes me or is ever proud of me at all. Those truths are buried in some untouchable place inside me, the kind of place that has been built by my mother and father’s bare hands and Martin Luther King biographies and sister’s bedtime stories and Denise Levertov poetry and Spanish dictionaries and that one time in middle school when I stood beside the vending machines every day until I’d collected enough change to buy a plane ticket to Sao Paulo Brazil. 

Still, you cannot get a tattoo, pierce your nipples, and date someone nearly twice your age without people asking questions.

I imagine it is his body that confuses people. All of this gray beard and balding hair and the rhythm of his aging skin. It’s confusing. Mostly because there are plenty of brown beards and young muscles and smooth skin surrounding all four corners of my college life so why should I concern myself with a man as old as him?

But there’s no use in trying to explain it.

Some people have no idea what it’s like to seek integrity, to follow it wherever it lands even if that means the body of a thirty nine year old man.

Of course there is that single glaring age gap that sits stubborn between us but what can you do? He once asked me if I remembered the Rodney King riots in LA and I responded with a simple, “No. I was one year old.” And for a moment neither of us spoke. A tiny disconnect that reminded us of how absurd this entire relationship is.

There is nothing a stranger could tell us about our relationship that we don’t know already.

Do not think that I have not begged my body to grow up and grow up and grow up some more, have not cursed his body for not waiting for me, and have not felt the guilt of cursing a body that has held me so holy in its oak tree arms.

When Adam asks me about Rodney King, I tell him that I was one but I also tell him that my biggest concern in the year of 1992 was mastering the journey from the couch to the coffee table. And then we laugh and laugh and give each other high fives and climb on our bikes and ride through the foot hills making jokes about each other’s bad haircuts and how he is just a lonely thirty nine year old man going through a mid life crisis and I am the dumb insecure twenty one year old he is taking advantage of. 

The distances are vast. But the company is something beautiful.

Every now and again we climb outside of time and look down on ourselves to see two humans caught perfectly in each other’s shapes. There is something so honest about the way that they love each other. An alignment that is sure to shift or cave at any given moment but is so unspeakably beautiful all the same.

And when we climb back down, the clock starts ticking again. And he is a single father, working towards the greatest love of his life (Emery) and I am a college senior just barely unhinging my boundless future.

The deck is stacked against us, we know. And the cards are flimsy and worn and some of them are missing, we know.

But still.

If you want to know the truth, then here it is:

I didn’t mean to find Adam. I didn’t mean to so unfortunately complicate my life by stumbling across this strange and impossible relationship. The problem is that I have spotted this man and like a beautiful work of art, no matter how hard I try, I cannot un-spot him. 

Crying at Kmart

I found you in the home care aisle today.

I was looking for a hammer but I found a bungee cord instead and it reminded me of that time you strapped my bike to the back of my car before I left for Seattle.

 And now I am crying in the home care aisle.

And I'm also listening to Gillian Welch's "I dream a highway back to you" which I suspect has something to do with it, but still.
It is raining outside for the first time this season and I can't help but feel like the city, the God, the something, is accompanying me on this sadness.

Most days I am so lonely I pretend that I am someone else.

In case you didn't know,
I haven't unpacked my apartment yet.
The paintings lay stagnant against the wall
and I keep tripping over them on my way out of the apartment which is sort of telling since these days I am mostly just tripping all the time.
A big stumbling mess.
I don't know what I'm doing.
You should've heard me talking to the cable company on the phone yesterday.
You would've died laughing.
You would've pulled me into your arms and kissed me.
You would’ve kissed me long enough to start kissing me in all those places that only you are allowed to kiss.
And dinner would be a little bit later then we planned.
And probably it would be raining outside because this is Seattle and it is raining all the time and we would be in love with it.  
And we would walk to Linda's just around the corner and have a drink and make jokes about each other and about the strangers and fall in love once or twice more before we headed home.
If you were here we could drive in the carpool lane.
If you were here we could walk to the QFC to buy our groceries.
If you were here you could be here.

In case you didn't know,
I don't think of you when I fall asleep at night.
I don't think of your arms,
I don't think of your deep forest chest,
or the shapes our bodies make side by side.  
In fact I don't think of anything at all
and now I have to go,
there are people crowding this home care aisle because they are buying screw drivers and light bulbs and probably they are going to go home and put together their children's beds or maybe change that light bulb their beloved has been complaining about and I change all of my own light bulbs
and I am putting together my own bed frame which is why I am in this aisle in the first place.
And last night a homeless man slept right outside my window and that is fine because there is barbed wire on my fence and I am fine because there is barbed wire around me too in some way. And I will be fine.
It’s just that I am embarrassed to cry like this in public so I am done writing now.
In case you didn't know, I don't think about you when I fall asleep at night.
I said, I don't think about you. 

Underneath My Third Grade Desk

Mrs. Werner stood firmly before our third grade class, with arms folded across her chest, and announced, “From now on, during reading time, no one is allowed to sit underneath any tables or desks for the rest of the school year. Now all of you may go to recess, except for you Brenda and I think you know why.” I felt my heart plummet into my stomach as the other kids jumped to their feet and stomped out of the classroom. I knew exactly what I had done.
            My head dropped to the carpet as I stood to my feet, and slouched over to Mrs. Werner’s desk. I could only manage to glance at her occasionally because the shame was overwhelming. Her brown eyes narrowed tightly against her skin and it reminded me a little bit of my mother. Leaning forward, she reached for the telephone that lay stagnant at the edge of her desk and began to dial. “Are you going to tell my mom?” I mustered enough courage to ask. She turned to me sternly, “No” she answered, “You’re going to tell your mom.”
Mrs. Werner held the phone out towards me and I reached for the white plastic. The dial strummed against my ear almost as loud as my own heartbeat. “Hello?” I could hear the familiar sound of my mom’s voice on the other line. It comforted me. “Um mom?” I began. My eyes climbed up towards Mrs. Werner’s face and then stumbled back down to the carpet again. “Yes?” she asked, slowly drawing out the word in her mounting suspicion. I began to stammer in my shaking voice, “I…I have to tell you something.” I looked up at Mrs. Werner’s face one last time. She gave me a nod of stern encouragement and I took a deep breath.
       “Well I…. I wrote a lot of bad words underneath Mrs. Werner’s table with a black marker.” It sounded even stupider coming out of my mouth than it had in my mind. Mrs. Werner pushed it further, “Tell her what words you wrote.” She said. I sucked in one last pocket of air, “I wrote the D-word, and the S-word, and the F-word.” My mom paused on the other line, “You mean damn? Fuck?” I let out an exhale, “Yes” I answered, “But mom that was from earlier this year, remember? I felt trapped and then you and I talked about it and now I know how to do things differently next time I feel that way.” She was quiet. “Anything else you want to tell me?” My mother’s voice had a way of reminding me that she knew me better than anyone else in the world, that she wouldn’t leave me for anything. 

I paused before her question, realizing that there was not a single word to be found in the soft insides of my mouth. I wondered how on earth I could even begin to explain myself.
It was within moments like these when I thought of the leaders from church and the way I could feel the weight of their eyes clawing down my back every time I passed by. I knew they didn’t like me. Those leaders only thought I contaminated something wholesome and perfect, like all those spotless “good girls” from Sunday school. To them, I was something dirty juxtaposed to something clean. I always wanted to tell those leaders that just because I knew things about the world, didn’t make me dirty. I wanted to tell them that me knowing about violence also meant that I knew about the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King.  I wanted to tell them that knowing about sex also meant that I knew about pregnancy and life. But there were too many of those church people for me to ever have the chance to convince. 

I used to want to do things in spite of them, just to piss them off. Like maybe some time in the future I would have sex before marriage with some rebel boyfriend who I shouldn’t have gotten involved with in the first place. He’d be a BAD influence on me and I’d be a BAD influence on him and then we’d just be setting off one big BAD example into the entire universe. Maybe then they’d really have something to talk about. Maybe I could go get pregnant, or do drugs, or drink myself into oblivion. But then I knew that infuriating them like that was only going to hurt me more. Besides, I didn’t want to waste a second of my life doing anything in reaction to their shallow gossip. I pushed their judgmental glares out of my mind and reminded myself that God knows who I really am and that’s all that matters.
To me, God was a big black man. He would come into my room and take up more than half of my bed on those nights when I was crying. He was the only one who saw me hold hands with the mentally challenged student when she found herself confused and scared on the first day of school. He was the only one who saw me sit with Jessica at lunch when all the other girls from our class abandoned her. He was the only one who saw me crying alone in my room the first time I read the biography of Martin Luther King. In my heart I knew that I was good, I just wasn’t good in the way that adults wanted me to be. I knew that I was never going to not run on the black top, or not chew gum in class.
For as long as I could remember, everything that was ugly was also the most beautiful, like sex, or brokenness, or me. I wanted to submerge myself in the pain of the world because to me that was what was real. I was absorbed by the Civil Rights Movement and words like, “fuck” because to me, that was raw honesty. It was within these pockets of honest pain where you could truly find God.
But here in Boise, Idaho, I couldn’t seem to escape the impending feeling that the color white was a box color and I was living a half-life. 

 I felt caught in a box suburbia neighborhood, where we went to box church, and lived in box houses, and drove in box cars, to a box school, where we learned box ideas about American presidents and slavery. I wanted there to be more black children in my school. I wanted every kid to speak more than one language. I wanted to stand on my desk and scream at the top of my lungs that white American history is fucked up, that our lives are fucked up, and that there is an entire world out there that I desperately wanted to be connected to. But how could an eight year old even begin to explain something like this? My soul was underlined with the unwavering certainty that the bubble we lived in was all a façade. There was no such thing as picture perfect happiness and I couldn’t understand why everybody around me kept pretending like there was.
All I ever wanted was to tear that picture apart, to show white suburbia that they are just as broken as the pregnant teenager, or the drug dealer on the street, or the third grader who writes cuss words underneath her desk. We are not so different from each other. But I knew I was only eight years old, that none of these dreams would come to me until I was older and that I would have to find life in the small pockets of exposure that Boise had to offer. In the meantime I stood back and allowed my passion to manifest itself underneath the wood tables of Mrs. Werner’s third grade classroom.
            My mom listened patiently as I gave my explanation for why I had written the cuss words. In that moment I hoped she remembered her high school years, the way she stuffed the ballot box so that the only black couple nominated would win prom king and queen for the first time. 

      She paused on the other line, perhaps seeing the mirror image of herself in me, before finally responding, “Okay Brenda. I love you. Let me talk to Mrs. Werner now.” I passed the phone to my teacher, feeling purged but mostly broken.
            When I came home that night my mom didn’t breathe a word of the incident until I finally found the words to ask her, “Are you mad at me or are you proud of me?” I didn’t know if I was speaking specifically about that incident or about who I was as a person, but I wanted an answer either way. I wanted to know if God was really everything the church leaders had told me he was. Was he really going to glare at me for sitting in a car with a boy, or saying the F word, or wearing a skirt that is a little too short? Or could God really love me in this way? Could he understand me and take me in as his daughter? Would he go on watching me fight for civil rights, or slamming poetry, or visiting the girls in youth correctional facility and then smile down on me and say, “This is my daughter. Isn’t she beautiful?” I wanted to know if it was true, what they say about God, that he loves for who you are. “Are you mad at me or are you proud of me?” I felt my lips shaping these words as a cry of something much bigger than a question; I wanted to know if I was valuable, if I was worth loving. My mother paused, stirring a pot of boiling noodles in our small kitchen. “I’m proud of you,” she said. 


The night you went away

my sister climbed into your closet

and pushed your clothes against her face.

She doesn't want to talk about it.


A month later she asks me how long human scent

can be collected in fabric.

She found you at the bottom of a hat yesterday.

"There he is." She said.

"Hi baby."


The last time I tried to escape from my body

I tumbled back down into a hangover

and a cup of cold black coffee.

These days,

I'm surprised at how lazy I am.


We see you in the form of a humming bird

or a song or a good good joke and that's nice and everything

but it's not the same.


This grief has held me captive.

Bound, gagged, and tied

the worst part is I find no desire to escape

like a little girl

fallen in love with her kidnapper.


Our bodies are all we have left.

Every morning my mom and sister wake up and paint watercolor flowers.

We speak of death

like it is an irrational number.

We only know what it was by the hole that it left.

A Sonnet For my Throat


My throat is just as soft as you would think,

sturdy loyal windpipe lines my insides,

unpaved wet and soft giggle bright pink.

Swallow that gentle breath and death subsides.


A skipping tunnel of unknown poems.

I can hiccup three quatrains blindfolded,

when my esophagus tastes just like home

and couplets begging to be molded.


There’s one clean, malleable poem untouched

huddled beneath my painted fingertips,

It is a barricaded trachea.

It is a story with no tongue, no lips.


My sacred breath travels that well paved road.

Emerge now from the vomit-corrupted throat.


     Every person holds a certain number of tears. I have not spent a single one of mine, not really. Until now. Only it is not how I imagined. My heart is not broken. No one has hurt me. I have not seen something particularly beautiful or better yet, particularly ugly and yet these tears fall without apology.

       My mom says that this is good. That I am digging up past pains and pushing them outward. Except for when she tells me this I sigh, because sighing is easy, because you don't have to reach for anything at all, only let something go. And then I ask her to please turn off the light and when she does I roll over and let my etiquette taste my tears.

     What troubles me most is that there is no equation to apply. I am not much for math but these days I am looking for a solution. A way to stop this faucet but I can't come to figure out how it started in the first place. They say if you bury something long enough it will come up unrecognizable. I imagine myself tossing skeletons over my shoulder but they have become so heavy now.

      I try to work backwards, try to trap each of my tears and examine the stories inside them. But the words come out wrong side up and mispelled. I can only make out small phrases like, "the blue house" or "Sunrise church" or "Martin Luther King" but these are only pieces and I am too tired to solve puzzles when sighing is so easy.

     I try to imagine my life as a quitter. How good it would feel to fall into black holes, to kiss the darkness and feel her kiss you back. At long last, to smash into what I'm most afraid of. I guess this is what people would call, "crazy" except for being crazy is the only thing that makes me feel sane, so, what then?

      Every now and again we have to stop pretending. Maybe that's what all this crying is about. Life is laced with breakdowns. Tiny inexplicable reminders of the great mystery that surrounds us. A scratch in the record, a naked face. I revel in this breakdown as the truest moment of my life. But I want to climb out of it all the same.

Pink Sundays

  The church foyer creeps with eyes of shattered glass as I make my way into the sanctuary. All of their eyes are sharp and pointing because every Sunday I look more and more like my mother and my mother is beautiful and she makes no apologies for it, so neither will I. I enter the sanctuary and there are lined rows of chairs that stretch for miles and I’m sure that if you took all the chairs out of here I could flip cart wheels for days on end and run barefoot from one white wall to the next and God would still be here and he wouldn’t mind at all. But there are chairs here. And there are candles and ties and families that want nothing more than to be whole all over again so I keep quiet and take my seat.
            When the musicians stand up, I stand up. And then I read lyrics from a power point slide off the back drop of a waterfall, or a mountain, or a cross, and I remember that time at the old church when we didn’t have things like power points, just an overheard and a transparent sheet. We used to sing songs like, “As the Deer Panteth for the Water” and I had no idea what it meant but my prayers were always real. Back then nobody ever questioned my faith because children have childlike faith, even God said so, and that was enough for them.
 That was long before I had boobs. Long before I intentionally wore bright red bras beneath my sweaters, just to feel a small victory inside myself. And that’s weird isn’t it? When something like the color red can make you feel so goddamn powerful? I bet you anything, half the women in here are wearing flesh tones or maybe even white. I had a white bra once. But mine was strapless and soft and nobody ever saw me in it but me and I thought it looked beautiful so nothing else really mattered.
When the music ends we all sit down. And the pastor takes his place at the podium and he is tucking in pant pockets and adjusting his notes. I see that his hands are rough and strong and I wonder if his hands are bigger than my father’s because the size of men’s bodies has always been captivating to me. Growing up, my dad used to rescue me from drowning waters or block me from being struck by on moving vehicles and every time it always took me by surprise. The way his arm could swoop with such unwavering power, the amount of safety he held in one handful. It was comforting to me, to see so much strength paired with so much kindness. Sometimes when I thought of God, I would think of just that, a giant man with strong, kind hands.
The pastor begins his sermon and all at once I am reminded that he is nothing like my father. I am reminded that I am sitting in a sanctuary, that my red bra is unwelcome here and so is my mother’s red nail polish. I grip the sides of my padded, plush seat, and endure as long as I can. The walls are so white and they are all glaring at me and I feel nervous to adjust the hem of my skirt or to cough or to breathe because everything echoes in here and the less attention I draw to myself the better.
I would’ve given up on church a long time ago, except for that I can’t seem to shake the unwavering suspicion that God is here. Somewhere. I keep looking for him behind the smiles of my friends, or the pages of the bulletin, or the gentle drone of our worship songs. But I don’t know how much longer I can keep digging around like this. I want God to be the kind of father that I can point out in a room and know with certainty that he is there, that he is home, that I could go over and touch him if I wanted to. Except for God never shows up to church with a tie and a Styrofoam cup of coffee like all the other fathers do.
The pastor continues his sermon and he is saying something about sex and marriage, and I am only half listening until I hear him say, “Don’t put a stumbling block in front of someone who can’t see.” And he is referring to women’s clothing and then I think of my mother and how she must be one hell of a stumbling block. And maybe we’re all just a bunch of stumbling blocks. And maybe we were all just women once until someone came along and called it a stumbling block so now every time a little girl is born the doctor might as well hold her up and shout, “it’s a stumbling block!” and everyone will cheer and buy pink shit and say congratulations.
I can feel the blood in my veins thickening, and my heartbeat quickens until I remind myself that this is not who we are. I think of my mother again except this time I don’t think of her as a stumbling block, I think of all of who she is. I think of that time she wiped the vomit off the face of a homeless stranger, and then handed him a cookie and said, “You got any kids? I got five kids.” She brought that man to church with her the next Sunday and all Jeff Henderson could think of to say was, “that dress is too form fitting.”
Sometimes the church walls leave me so broken that there’s an aching in my bones. A deep sorrow that buries itself further and further until I have forgotten what I look like, have forgotten my name, or what color of bras I liked in the first place. Sometimes when I sit down in the sanctuary, I crawl inside myself and watch the rest of the congregation move about. The men try to lead the women but they get it all wrong and then the women try to pick up the pieces but they get it all wrong, and now everyone just looks so lost and watching them look lost makes me feel lost and then all at once I’m not really sure who God is anymore or why we are meeting in this ugly brick building, every Sunday, in the first place.
I’ve been to a few places but every church feels the same. There is always those same sharp pair of eyes, the ones that cut and claw. There is always the aroma of brewed coffee and the sound of children playing tag. There is always warmth and kindness. There is always the men who are in charge of things, and the women who believe them. There is the light and there is the dark. There is oppression and there is equality. There is God and there is Satan all wrapped up in one brick building.
I sift through these paradoxes, stumbling through the dark until I accidently grab hold of something truly beautiful, like the way the pastor’s wife held the crying girl after her dad died, or when the entire congregation sang a song without any music. These are the moments when I find God. Except for that I don’t always know what exactly I’m doing here but I have this creeping suspicion that nobody really does. So why should I take someone else’s word whole heartedly when they tell me things like, “Your shirt is too low cut.” How can I be expected to believe anything other than what God tells me?  Mainly, that I am loved exactly as I am. Is it really all that audacious to believe?
These are the things I tell myself when I am left cold and broken by the words of a pastor who will never understand me. He is still giving his sermon and I am desperately searching for God everywhere except for that I can’t find him. I scan the sanctuary up and down, but he is nowhere to be found and the pastor is saying, “Don’t be fooled by the temptress” and I am slipping through the cracks farther and farther. And I am looking and I am looking. And the pastor says, “Wives submit to your husbands,” and I’m drowning and I’m drowning, and then suddenly,
God is there.
I feel her.
 She is a moving graceful tide that sweeps down the aisle and takes a seat directly beside me. I have no idea what she looks like but I am absolutely certain that she has boobs. She is listening to the sermon, and she is humble in all her magnitude, like a silent lamb being led to the slaughter, and all at once I realize where her son gets it from.
I want to know why she has come to me this way and why she is a woman because my whole life God has never been anything but a man with strong kind hands and this whole woman thing is sort of throwing me for a loop except for it’s the kind of loop that I don’t really mind being thrown, because it feels sort of good to talk to your mother when all this time you’ve been talking to your father who is kind and means well, but doesn’t always understand where you’re coming from.
God is not saying anything to me but she is there and somehow that is saying a lot. And then all at once I feel like crying. I feel like sobbing hysterical. But I am in a church and there are people all around me and if they see me break down, they’re all going to think I’m weird. So I keep myself mildly composed but there are still tears that fall silent down my cheeks, the way oppression is silent.
And the pastor is still saying that I am a stumbling block and I am running out of tears to cry, and then all at once, I hear her voice. A gentle authority that sweeps me up and out of my brokenness, she tells me, “You have to forgive him.” And I ask her, “How can I forgive him?” and she says, “I did.” And that shuts me up.
And a moment passes where we sit there, together like that. And after the silence has spilled its last tension, God says to me, “You are a beautiful woman and you’re made in my image.” And I have heard this my whole life, except for it never occurred to me that I am woman and that perhaps God looks something like me, with boobs and brown hair, and soft flimsy wrists. And after I’ve pictured this new image of God she tells me, “You have to remember that I am a mother who loves these men, exactly as they are. Not who they’re supposed to be.”
And then I felt the sanctuary change. And it is not the same sanctuary where I wear red bras to feel victorious or where men are sharp and powerful oppressors. It is a sanctuary where God meets us exactly as we are, where men are our fathers, and our brothers, and our friends, and women forgive them for everything they’ve done to us.


"Stop telling me to be still.
Kill me if you will.
I intend to run circles
round these tight white drawers
you have put me in." - Staceyann Chin